THE HAGUE: A second half hat trick from Gonzalo Peillat gave Argentina victory over New Zealand in a Men’s Hockey World Cup game that was notable for the high standard of defence and possessive play here on Friday. The result leaves Argentina joint top of the pool with the Netherlands and Peillat as joint top scorer with Belgium's Tom Boon. Argentina look like a different side from the team that hassled and harried Germany just a few days ago. A disciplined press, composure both in attack and defence, patient moving of the ball around the pitch – in the first half both teams played a similar and evenly-matched game. Even without goals in the first 35 minutes, this was a game that had the hockey aficionado glued to the action. Who would break first? Which defence would be breached?
The highlights of the first half were a Simon Child attempt that hit the post in the 15th minute and a point blank save from Juan Vivaldi just a few minutes later. The attempt by Child saw the forward trap a cross that was fired in, turn and unleash a tomahawk shot that flew past Juan Vivaldi in the Argentina goal and hit the post. Two minutes later, Vivaldi pulled out a spectacular save as Kane Russell and Jared Panchia carved out a great scoring opportunity with some swift passing. The reaction save from Vivaldi was of the highest quality.
Argentina soaked up Black Sticks pressure in the first half with a well-structured half pitch press and were quick on the counter attack. One of these resulted in a well-taken shot from Lucas Rey which flew past Devon Manchester, but just wide of the New Zealand goal. The game came alight in the second half as both teams began to work out each other's defensive structure. The first to break through were the Argentinians, as Gonzalo Peillat (44 and 51) scored twice from drag-flick penalty corners. His goals sandwiched a Stephen Jenness goal (49) which was scored after some great work around the circle from Shea McAleese. The game was put beyond any doubt when Peillat (63) scored his third goal. Again a spectacular drag flick left the Black Sticks defence with no chance of stopping it.
South Korea draw 0-0 with South Africa: A collection of world class saves from Korea shot-stopper Lee Myungho denied 11th ranked South Africa a famous victory over world number 7 Korea, as the two Pool B rivals played out a 0-0 draw. Myungho made a number of terrific blocks in the second half to spare the blushes of the Asian Champions, who were second best to the Champions of Africa for much of the second half. The result gave both teams their first point of the tournament, although served to dramatically reduce the chances of either side reaching the semifinal stages.
The two sides contested a generally lifeless first period that was short of both scoring chances and genuine quality, with the crowd appearing to enjoy the glorious sunshine far more than the action on the field. It was an extremely quiet period for the goalkeepers, with Korea's Myungho and opposite number Erasmus Pietersee not having to make a save in the first 35 minutes of the match.
The game really opened up as the half progressed, and a key moment arrived in the 53rd minute when Korea earned a penalty corner. Drag-flick star Jang Jonghyun sent a rocket-shot arrowing into the roof of the goal, but the South Africans felt that all was not as it seemed and took the decision to video umpire Andy Mair. It proved to be an inspired decision, with Mair spotting that the ball had clipped defensive runner Jonathan Robinson above the knee on its way through, with the goal being ruled out on the grounds of dangerous play.
The decision certainly seemed to affect Korea, with the momentum of the match swinging firmly in the direction of the South Africans. A close range effort from Lloyd Norris-Jones and Wade Paton's ripping penalty corner flick were just two of many marvellous saves by the outstanding Myungho, who kept the Asian giants well and truly in the game. South Africa won a trio of penalty corners in the final minute of the match, but strong Korean defending and a shot wide of the target from Justin Reid-Ross brought the proceedings to an end with the scores locked at 0-0.
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